Expert tips by Jan Jones (Early Childhood Educator)
Water play for babies (0 – 18 months)
- Bathing – allow baby to stretch and kick. Stroke baby smoothly talking about body parts.
- Wading pool (closely supervised at all times).
- Squeeze bottle with water.
- Sponges and water – to feel and mouth
- Face washers (wet face washer twisted tightly and then frozen makes a great reliever when child is teething – just give it to child to suck on. Keep some in plastic bags in your freezer).
- Older baby – give plastic containers, funnels, cups, small pieces of wood, squeeze toys, sponges and corks for floating and pouring.
Water play for toddlers (18 months – 3 years)
- As above, plus …
- Play in bath or kitchen sink.
- Lux soap flakes and water mixing with wooden spoons and whisks.
- Painting with water buckets and brush or painting tray and roller.
- Washing dolls, tables, doll’s clothes, plastic dishes. Use a large plastic bowl on a towel on floor or on a low table.
- Mud and water – imaginative play.
- Bubble blowing.
- Squeeze bottles.
- Hose – turn on to a trickle and let the toddler feel the water and wave the hose around. Make sure you check on whether water restrictions allow use of a hose.
- Filling and emptying containers and buckets.
- Bowls of water and teapots on the grass.
- Washing hands – nailbrush, sponges, soap.
- Walk in the rain in gumboots and raincoat.
- Watering the garden.
- Large ice cubes (freeze ice-cream containers of water) allowed to melt in a container. Can add colours to ice cubes if desired and also small plastic items that will appear as blocks defrost.
Water play for preschoolers (3 – 6 years)
- As above, plus …
- Spray bottles.
- Eye droppers, food dye and water.
- Washing of any kind – dishes, clothes, car.
- Water with pretend play tea-sets, etc.
- Water in the sandpit.
- Aqua play set, assorted pipes, funnels, water wheels.
- Floating objects – boats, corks, etc.
- Paint rollers, buckets, brushes.
- Baby bath or wading pool (carefully supervised).
- Water and soil mixing to make mud.
- Coloured water in containers.
- Bubble pipes/makers and bubble mix.
- Cleaning jobs – wiping tables, washing toys. (10% vinegar solution in spray bottle to help with disinfection).
- Mopping up spills – cut-down mops (short handles).
- Pouring from one container to another.
- Making showers with a hose up high or fountains with containers stacked on top of one another.
Simple home-made water play scoop or funnel
Cut a plastic milk or juice bottle so that it forms a scoop. Leave lid on to scoop water or remove to use as a funnel. Two litre bottles with a handle make a scoop that is very easy to use.
This scoop can also be used for sand play.
Value of water play for the child
- Lots of experimenting and using own ideas – sinking, floating, making boats, pouring, filling, emptying.
- It is an open-ended activity – there is no correct way to play with any of these items as long as the child is adequately supervised.
- Soothing and relaxing – useful to guide children to if they are becoming frustrated with other activities.
- Water is a satisfying natural play activity.